THE LION IN WINTER Boldly Kicks Off the Season at Old Academy Players

by Ginger Agnew
Mike Monroe as King Henry the Second and Loretta Lucy Miller as his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine in Old Academy Players' THE LION IN WINTER.

Mike Monroe as King Henry the Second and Loretta Lucy Miller as his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine in Old Academy Players’ THE LION IN WINTER.

Old Academy Players, for their 491st show, takes on a play that is not for the faint of heart. THE LION IN WINTER by James Goldman is a play about family life, not every day family life, but a dysfunctional royal family. Chinon, France during the Christmas of 1183 is the setting for the larger than life characters. Henry II, King of England is hosting another family holiday, but it is far from just another family holiday. This family lives large while loving, hating, whispering, yelling, supporting each other and in those ways tearing each other apart. England is the prize desired by each of Henry and Eleanor’s sons.

Bravery abounds in this production. There is no shortage of bravery when it comes to Henry and Eleanor and the actors portraying them. These are roles needing larger than life treatment. Michael Monroe portrays Henry Plantagenet, King of England, who booms, bullies, bellows, belittles, and boasts about certain members of his brood. Large and loud, this character careens through the world intending to win every battle, those both physical and mental. Eleanor of Aquitaine is an enigmatic enchantress, who enlightens and entangles. Loretta Lucy Miller brings her to life with gusto. Laura Seeley as Alais Capet is the mistress of Henry who creates in him a deep love, in Eleanor a bit of warmth, jealousy, and despair and in the sons hope for a future. Seeley creates a believable temptress, a lively blend of sympathetic and caring, plotting and conniving. Three sons are in attendance at the holiday gathering, Richard Lionheart (Nick Groch), Geoffrey Plantagenet (Danny Donnelly), and John Plantagenet (Evan McClelland). These brothers are at war, all wanting the same thing, to be given the throne of England. Groch, Donnelly, and McClelland play as well together as actors as their characters play wickedly with each other. Groch, as the oldest, has an aura of power about him and gives Richard interesting twists and turns. Donnelly gives Geoffrey just the right amount of disgust and gloom. McClelland unreservedly portrays a spoiled and youthful prince. The princes give the audience plenty of tense moments, action, and laughter. Cory Meccariello as Philip Capet, King of France, brings just the right touches to the young French king.

Cory Meccariello, Mike Monroe and Laura Seeley in a scene from THE LION IN WINTER.

Cory Meccariello, Mike Monroe and Laura Seeley in a scene from THE LION IN WINTER.

Imaginative and flexible scenery makes the most of the stage space, allowing for multiple playing areas and creative set changes. Minimal and yet well placed props give the actors just enough to add realism, but not more than they can handle. The period costuming contributes what is necessary to the characters and atmosphere. Directed to showcase characters and performances, Carla Childs gets the most from her space, and the players.

Old Academy Players always offers solid entertainment and gives generously to audiences. This is the way local community theater should be. Taking risks with show choices, making the most of, and choosing carefully from local talent, and inviting audiences to enjoy an evening of live theater. The upcoming season is filled with interesting choices and subscribers are encouraged. This production of THE LION IN WINTER should not be compared with the film, but can be enjoyed for all that it delivers.

by James Goldman
Directed by Carla Childs
Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM Sundays at 2:00 PM
September 12, 13, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 2014
Old Academy Players
3540-44 Indian Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129


Old Academy Players

Review submitted by:
Ginger Agnew

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